January-February 2017 Newsletter
The Fluvanna Art Association News is published bi-monthly and is written and edited by Page H. Gifford.
Defining Art in A New Age
There has been an ongoing debate amongst traditionalists in the art world that photography was could not be accepted as an art form but then came digital art and that was meant with resistance. However, nowadays the mindset of traditional artists is more accepting of new mediums than their past predecessors. It is not a matter of whether today’s artist executes their creations with traditional mediums but whether their vision is innovative enough and makes an impact. Digital is ushering in a new way of creating art and is being accepted more widely by the traditionalists than one would suspect.
It comes down to software versus Michelangelo. In Michelangelo’s time, he recorded the world around him with charcoal, paint and brushes. What his generation of masters and those that followed was to record the world around them in greater detail than their fellow artists 300 years later because by that time, photography had given portrait painters some competition. New technology always presents a new and more efficient and innovative way of doing things. The role of computers nowadays, is being accepted in the same way.
Some traditionalists view it as cheating since the computer has the skill, not the artist. But the computer is the tools that the artist uses to create their vision.
“It’s not really “creating”—we don’t create a thing, we create an image of it. In the end, we tend to call it sculpting (for built forms) and drawing (for shapes on paper). People more familiar with art add another category to it, painting, to distinguish it from line-based works.” said artist Monika Zagrobelna. Artists, like Zagrobelna, see it as automating time-consuming processes.
Artists cite that the problem lies in that students who create digital art have never been taught the fundamentals of art. Digital artists agree that understanding the fundamentals is key to creation and the appreciation of art itself. The computer is a tool and has been used by graphic artists and illustrators where everything needs to be print ready. An extension of their creativity, it has simply replaced the tedious layout and Pica ruler. Photoshop is invaluable to photographers as has been Adobe Illustrator for illustrators and Publisher, Serif and Quark for layout. These artists view the computer as a tool to help them accomplish their vision.
Traditional art methods are a choice for artists today and even the old hands on methods are constantly being upgraded to newer cleaner versions, such as water soluble oils and micron pens. But all artists agree that art basics, including balance, concept, harmony etc. cannot be replaced by technology. Like musicians, you don’t start out composing music. You learn the basics, from playing scales to Gregorian chants to understanding great composers. Basic knowledge of the concepts of fine art teaches the wannabe artist about colors, shapes, balance and composition; it is the first step toward making a vision a reality. Digital artists utilize these skills and support the idea that drawing skills are very important to help visualize ideas. They do use basic drawing skills and digitally paint their work, using tools such as the Wacom tablet or Centiq. It doesn’t matter what tool you use but how you transmit your vision from your mind’s eye.
Haden House Picked for 2016 Ornament
It doesn’t seem that long ago that Catherine Hamilton created the Fluvanna County ornament for the Governor’s Christmas tree. That was 2015 and she was asked again if she would do it for 2016 and it would seem Catherine surpassed herself on this one. This year’s ornament featured the newly renovated Haden House at Pleasant Grove.
The Haden House is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and was built by William Douglas Haden over one hundred and fifty years ago and donated to the county. The 1854 Pleasant Grove House is seen from Route 53 and though it may not seem architecturally remarkable and is similar to many plantation houses of its time, its role in the County’s social and economic history are significant. Pleasant Grove was a vibrant and active farming operation, producing wheat, corn, oats and tobacco. Plantations similar to Pleasant Grove depended on the Rivanna bateaux and canal boats to transport harvested tobacco crops and the locally milled corn, wheat, and oat flour downriver to Richmond markets.
Today, it sits on 1,000 acres of beautiful rolling hills, pastures and wooded areas visitors enjoy daily, from hiking and horseback riding trails to areas for bird watchers and a newly expanded dog park and picnic areas as well as the Fluvanna County Public Library and sheriff’s office. For historians and genealogists, members of the Haden family are interred in the cemetery located near the house and other areas of the property.
Hamilton had to scramble this year to find a suitable subject since few artists had stepped forward to create the ornament.
“There were only seven days left, and I had several sgraffito pieces left over from when the county asked me to do it last year. Since the discs were already made, and one of them happened to be Haden House, it was possible to finish an ornament in time, and I wanted to help.” She said. “The theme was “Home for the Holidays” and Haden House was a great example of an historic home of importance to our county.”
Hamilton described the process. She always begins with black powder on a clear disc, fired, color overlayed, and fired to tack fuse.
“I then used silver leaf as the backing for the sgraffito disc, sealed it, then used the copper foil. It was then incorporated into a stained glass design using the Tiffany method. I tinned the disc and decided to add a persimmon and leaf design to it.”
“Most of the pieces could be hand-cut, but the top of the persimmon had to be shaped on the ring saw.” She adds that the hand-cut pieces were ground and all the glass wrapped in copper foil tape. The sides and edges of the copper foil were pressed down using a straight edge so the foil conforms to the indentations in the glass. The pieces were tinned with solder, then placed into position. Dots of solder anchored them together and then both sides and the edges were completely soldered.
“The hanger was fashioned from tinned wire. The final step was to wash the piece and scrub it with a copper scouring pad, then dry it and coat it with stained glass polish (similar to carnuba wax). The polish is allowed to dry, then buffed to a shine with a soft cloth. This prevents the solder from developing a whitish haze over time.”
A lengthy process but one in which Catherine exhibits fine craftsmanship, artistry and discipline to achieve her vision.
As I continue my art journey through self discovery, I realized that looking back on my childhood and my interest in art as I grew older that I was attempting to fit myself into a category in which I didn’t fit. It reminds me of a line comedian Fanny Brice once said, “Fitting a piano through a transom.” She of course was referring to childbirth but then as artists we could relate in much the same way when viewing our art.
In our early years we learn the basic fundamentals of art but somehow along the way, we may have encountered those, that without realizing it, stifled our creativity and we let go of our innter artist. The child who doodled and colored and fingerpainted ceased to exist until that moment, that epiphany, we find her again. We then realize the art we were meant to create was there all along but we spent too much time competing with other artists on a different level instead of listening to our inner artist.
When I was a child, I loved pattern and color. My mother used to draw “Pagies” for me and I would design the clothes. Then she began to teach me to draw the figures. This led to my interst in fashion design. But since I gave up the idea of ever becoming a designer, the patterns and the colors never left me. When I see a colorful painting or an intricate zentangle, it takes my breath away and I finally recognized my strength in art and now embrace it.
If sometning is not working, take some time, think about what draws you about art, the mediums, try something different, maybe something you used to do and see what develops. You may awaken your inner artist.
Don’t forget our meetings are now the third Friday of the month at 9:30 a.m. On January 20, we will welcome artist Jason Abbott, will be discussing his oil paintings and sharing with us his career as a painter and what it takes to be a professional artist.
Mary Ann Friedman shared the following:
I have been several times to the Art Works Richmond and I am always amazed by what creative people we have around Virginia. Their installations are varied and change regularly. Plus they do have calls for entry to many of their exhibits. The hours are Tuesday thru Sunday 12-6. Worth the ride to Richmond.
Art Works Richmond
320 Hull Street
Richmond, VA 23224